Twin suicide bombs blasted through Afghanistan early Tuesday morning, killing at least fifty-eight people. The attacks appeared to be targeting Shiite Muslims as they occurred on the most significant day of the Shiite calendar, Ashura, stirring fears of a potential sectarian war in a country that has thus far steered clear of Sunni-Shiite violence.
The initial bomb exploded at a Shiite mosque in Kabul, killing 55 and wounding at least 150. The second bomb detonated in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif as processions of Shiites commemorated their Islamic holy day of Ashura. In addition, a third bomb separate from the suicide missions and hidden in a parked motorcycle in Kandahar exploded, injuring six.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group from Pakistan with ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Abdullah Khadri, a storekeeper, explains that the attack succeeded, as the perpetrators no doubt hoped, in undermining his confidence in the Afghan government. “The police are too weak, the government is too weak,” he said. “They can’t even provide protection for our religious day.”
While pre-war Afghanistan has a history of violence between the Sunni majority and Shiite minority, since the fall of the Taliban such large-scale sectarian acts have been absent from the Afghan war. If Sunni-Shiite attacks continue, however, they will complicate goals to withdraw international combat forces by 2014 and threaten the creation of a stable and secure Afghanistan.